Monday, January 22, 2018

Ayn Rand - How Is This Still A Thing? - Something To Think About As You Watch The Republican Politicians Make Speeches Today

I can say that this video contains the most comprehensive and spot on definition of "Objectivism" that could possibly exist in English. 

Gary Burton - Ralph Towner - Matchbook

Some Other Time 

I will confess that this is probably the only song by Leonard Bernstein I actually like, written in the period when Gunther Schuller said he was at his best, before fame spoiled him.

Last Hate Mail I'm Answering On The Fate of Ideas:Moses

Oh, dear, I thought I'd answered that last night.   Haven't you gotten the clue yet that when Marilynne Robinson writes an essay like this one that she would have thought of the strife between right-wing Christians and LGBT people such as myself?   She makes this point in the last two paragraphs of the essay:

If one were to argue that the attack on Moses is and always has been an attack on the very idea of ethical obligations, one could adduce by way of evidence, first, the fact that where Moses has been rejected, virtue has been of the kind Jesus described as tithing mint and cumin – a devoting of much attention to minor things.  When the Bible was finally unleashed on Europe, it set off revolutions.

A second, graver point might be made, too.  Every one of these books [those which slammed Moses and the Scriptures that deal with the Law] displaces ethical responsibility away from Christian or modern civilization and onto the Old Testament.  It is useful, it is even rational, to excuse oneself and one's own from ethical responsibility by any means at all, let alone by means that reinforce this worst prejudice?  And in fact would not justice to Moses restore to this mysteriously religious society something urgently needed, a sense of the absolute biblical imperative to respectful generosity toward the poor and the stranger?   When Jesus describes Judgment, the famous separation of the sheep from the goats,  he does not mention religious affiliation or sexual orientation or family values.  He says,  “I was hungry, and ye fed me not”  (Matthew 25:42)*.  Whether he was a rabbi, a prophet, or the Second Person of the Trinity, the ethic he invokes comes straight from Moses.

*  Here's the complete passage Matthew 25:31-46.  No where in the Gospels does Jesus condemn anyone for sexual transgressions that I'm aware of.

. . . how do these crimes compare with those of other peoples, their contemporaries or ours? When Hume wrote, the English gibbets More describes were still as full as ever

The section of Marilynne Robinson's essay that I am going over here ends with a section in which she shows a number of writers, both old and, especially new, who have distorted, misrepresented and lied about the "God of the Jews" for several but not unrelated reasons. The first one she brings up is the atheist icon, David Hume.

Scholarly books on the Scriptures typically claim objectivity and may sometimes aspire to it, though their definitions of objectivity inevitably vary with the intentions of their writers.  But to assume a posture of seeming objectivity relative to any controverted subject is a very old polemical maneuver.  David Hume, in an endnote to his Natural History of Religion (written in 1751, published in 1779), quotes Chevalier Ramsay,  who quotes an imagined Chinese or Indian philosopher's reaction to Christianity: “The God of the Jews is a most cruel, unjust, partial, and fantastical being . . . This chosen nation was . . . the most stupid ungrateful, rebellious and perfidious of all nations . . . [God's son dies to appease his vindictive wrath, but the vast majority of the world are excluded from any benefit.  This makes God]  . . . a cruel vindictive tyrant, an impotent or a wrathful daemon.”  And so on.*

Even pious critics seem never to remember that, in the Old Testament, the Jews were talking among themselves, interpreting their own experience to themselves.  Every negative thing we know about them, every phrase that is used to condemn them, they supplied, in their incredible self-scrutiny and self-judgment.  Who but the ancient Jews would have thought to blame themselves for, in effect, lying along the invasion route of the Babylonians?  They preserved and magnified their vision of the high holiness of God by absorbing into themselves responsibility for their sufferings,  and this made them passionately self-accusatory, in ways no other people would have thought of being.   

That is one of the most fascinating things about the slamming of the Torah, or really the entire Jewish Scriptures is that every particular accurately cited against them is the product of their own confession.  I mentioned the extraordinary idea contained in the Talmud that their conception of God's holiness and goodness even, as mentioned below,  extended to putting a damper on the angelic celebration of the deaths of Pharaoh and his charioteers when God made the waters close on them.  It would be like loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.  Oh, that's right, it is exactly like that. And is it ever hard to do so.

This incomparable literature would surely have been lost if they had imagined the use it would be put to, and had written to justify themselves and to defend their descendants in the eyes of the nations rather than to ponder their life in openness toward God.  By what standard but their own could Israel have been considered ungrateful or rebellious or corrupt?  Granting crimes and errors,  which they recorded, and preserved and pondered the records of for centuries, and which were otherwise so historically minor that no one would ever have heard of them – how do these crimes compare with those of other peoples, their contemporaries or ours?  When Hume wrote, the English gibbets More describes were still as full as ever.  The grandeur of the Old Testament, and the fact that such great significance was attached to it, distracts readers from a sense of its unique communal inwardness.  It is an endless reconciliation achieved at great cost by a people whose relation to God is astonishingly brave and generous.  To misappropriate it as a damning witness against the Jews and “the Jewish God” is vulgar beyond belief.  And not at all uncommon, therefore.  It is useful to consider how the New Testament would read, if it had gone on to chronicle the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Vulgar Beyond Belief  Beyond Belief

"Every negative thing we know about them, every phrase that is used to condemn them, they supplied, in their incredible self-scrutiny and self-judgment." that is an incredible fact in the attacks made against the Mosaic tradition which those who make them never take into account.   All through the Old Testament, especially, but to an extent the New Testament, what a superficial, "enlightenment" reading of the narratives and texts as modern history or science or philosophy misses is that there is enormous ambiguity in even the victories of the Children of Israel.  It doesn't say so in Exodus but the Talmud says that even as the text of Exodus has the Children of Israel rejoicing at the deaths of Pharaoh and his charioteers, God chastises the angels who were about to join them asking them how they dared to rejoice with them, “How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying,”   And there are many instances in the text which how an astonishing sensitivity to the moral ambiguity of their good fortunes and, especially, military victories and which punish their desire to own God (1 Samuel 4:3-11).  That story has always struck me as rather extraordinary.

You can find similar content in some other Scriptures but I don't know of any tradition that takes it as far and second guesses their own action, assumptions and claims as the Hebrew Scriptures.  They show a vigilance against self-interest, against self-aggrandizement that is entirely lacking in modern secular-atheism and even more so in the modern-industrial-scientific framing that finds its highest value in vulgar materialism.

Modernism and, especially the United States could learn a lot from reading the Scriptures in ways that Marilynne Robinson and Walter Brueggemann and many others advocate.  One thing I'm certain of, if an effective margin of supposed liberals and moderates had that understanding of life, we would never have come to what we have.  If the "founders" had not so disdained the Old Testament they might have not embedded the terrible features that benefitted slave owners and exploitative commercial men which are the same ones that gave us George W. Bush and Donald Trump.  If they took the Commandment against bearing false witness, contained in that bit Ten they're always wanting to put in public buildings, our media and so our politics would not be the sewer they are.  I think the egalitarian moral and economic content of the Scriptures are the reason for the long campaign of attacks on them in the modern era as great fortunes have been made under capitalism and the reason they have come to be so widely associated with the poor and members of oppressed minorities who have ears to hear what they're saying.   Contrary to the pseudo-liberal line against them, the economic content of them, especially to a gentile audience through Christianity, is the only reliable foundation of any liberalism that deserves to be called that.  In other of her essays, Ms. Robinson makes a very good case for the traditional American form of liberalism, founded on the rock of equality and economic justice, was a development from the Calvinist study of the Mosaic Law.  The decline of Christianity among educated liberals is the reason that their liberalism declined into an ineffectual, counter-productive snobbery.   Liberalism won't recover until this is rediscovered and really believed.

*  Without having read the text Hume took that from, I wonder if Ramsay's argument wasn't against the doctrine of eternal damnation instead of the use Hume put it to.  About the only thing I know about Chevalier Ramsay is that he was a Christian universalist and influenced by the French quietist and mystic Bishop François Fénelon.   If I get the chance to look it up, I'll try to find out if that's right.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Men's Sheds

I'm not much of a joiner and don't really go for the "man" stuff but for those who do this sounds like it might not be a bad thing.

The first men's shed opened twenty years ago in a borrowed room in the farming town of Tongala, Australia.   

It was an experiment — an attempt at dealing with a growing health crisis. Older men, prone to isolation, despair and depression, have a very high suicide rate. 

Today, there are more than 2,000 Men's Sheds across Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Great Britain. Seventeen in five Canadian provinces.  

In Men's Sheds, there are no rule-books, no funny uniforms, and no expectations. Just a bunch of guys in a bit of the same boat.        

Producer David Gutnick was recently in Winnipeg where he visited the Woodhaven Men's Shed 

[Listen to the report from the CBC here]

It could hardly be more simple. Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, a couple of dozen older guys make their way to a room in a Winnipeg community centre.   

There are folding chairs and tables. A coffee pot, playing cards, a couple of cribbage boards, bundles of dried willow branches and cottonwood bark, a box full of carving knives and paint brushes. 

A bowl of water gets put on the floor for Comet the dog, and a hand-painted sign is taped up on the door for newcomers: Men's Sheds of Manitoba.  

It sounds a lot like the knitting group one of my oldest friends started only for men.  I like the idea that it's not run by some kind of professional (with some kind of psych degree)  not structured and not demanding and it sounds cheap enough that they could be started all over the place.   I doubt I'd go to one but there are probably a lot of men in my age group who would get a lot out of it.

Hate Mail

Marilynne Robinson's essay runs about twenty-eight pages, I'm only giving you a few of those, even as the other sections of it are more than worth reading.   As to the horrible oppression that modern people whine about feeling from The Law,  she covered that quite succinctly after going through the claims of several other authors after the part I'm excerpting.

It really is interesting to discover how oppressed one can feel by law with which one seem to have no meaningful acquaintance.   If anyone could document that the obligation is deeply felt among us to forgive our debtors, then the case for the patriarchal dominance of Moses would be more persuasive.  The fact is that the hardest of the laws, those comprehended in the phrase "open wide thy hand" are never even noticed to be resented.    

I have a theory that the relatively few sexual restrictions in the "holiness code" have been fixed on exactly for the reason that people who can do so want to deflect attention from the radical economic egalitarianism of The Law, not to mention The Prophets and The Gospels and Epistles. 

Since you bring up the fact that I'm gay, it's pretty clear that the authors of the Scriptures didn't have any idea of a faithful, committed, loving relationship that included respectful, non-damaging sexual affection.   A lot has been written about that in the past forty years making a persuasive case that those kinds of lesbian and gay relationships aren't what those talked about.  I think that's especially true in some of the mentions of them in other parts of Scripture which clearly are talking about pagan temple prostitution, which would have been acts of apostacy as well as injustice against the women and children held in sex slavery by those pagan religious institutions.   I do, though, think for those who take the traditional view that they are a flat ban on any sexual relationship between men or between women, it's interesting that THOSE PEOPLE don't seem to take the far more extensive commandments in The Law that Ms. Robinson pointed out in that passage at all seriously and something on which they seem to feel God must have changed his mind. 

I doubt one in a hundred of the college credentialed whiners about how much of a hurt old Moses puts on them have ever read any of it, getting their information from people who misrepresent it hoping to get on Fresh Air or some other talk show.  If not some total boob in the atheist celebrity circuit or some even stupider stand up comic.   Make that I doubt more than one in a thousand of the college credentialed whiners.

These are the laws of a passionate God

The modern cultural practice, I'd say the basic requirement of club membership in everything from high-brow to low-brow would-be intellectualism, is to hold the Biblical Hebrews in the Old Testament and, these days, Christians as well*, to severe standards of judgement that aren't practised much on any other people or nation or ideological grouping.  That's so ingrained that people do it automatically, needing no actual knowledge of the texts or what they actually said, the ersatz erudition that's based in is passed on in secondary, tertiary. . . many degrees of separation from the actual texts, often not based in reading but on what people hear on TV and radio, in movies and even plays.  The general character of utter stupidity of online atheist babble on that is about as good an example of where that ends up as any.

The passage I posted Saturday from Marilynne Robinson's great and, I hold, essential essay,  The Fate of Ideas: Moses ended in her promise to demonstrate that the centuries long slamming, which has only intensified, against the "Jewish God" as described in the Old Testament is false.   It's a very long argument because it can only be made by reading the texts and the historical narrative those are set in, as Marilynne Robinson points out later in her essay, every single accusation of wrong doing made against the Israelites and their God is known by it being confessed in their holiest Scriptures.  This section of the essay presents a number of those passages.   I will break into Ms. Robinson's text to point some things out.   There will be one more, much shorter excerpt from the essay in this impromptu series, before I return to Brueggemann.   If you want to see this as a long, voluntarily given advertisement for the book, When I Was A Child I Read Books and, in fact, all of her essays, I won't object, at all.

Ah, but the people Moses brought out of slavery invaded and took the land of the Canaanites!  The Israelites are much abused these days for their treatment of the Canaanites.  The historicity of the invasion stories as they occur in Joshua is questionable; archeology does not confirm them.   Nor does the book of Judges, which names the peoples “the Lord left” in Canaan;  Philistines, Sidonians, Hivites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, and Jesubites (Judges 3:3-5).  The Israelites may well have been Canaanites themselves, or a mixed population of those who were slaves in Egypt rather than a tribe or people.  The number of those who left Egypt may have been small and grown in retrospect, like the French Resistance.  Possession of Canaan was never complete.  Other inhabitants, for example Hittites and Philistines, were also invaders.  Ancient Near Eastern records often describe the defeat of enemies as their extermination; in fact the only known mention of Israel in Egyptian writing, dated about 1230 BCE, boasts that “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.”    In any case, whatever happened in Canaan, a violent epic was made of it which is the basis of much vilification of “the Jewish God.”

As ancient narrative, and as history, this story of conquest is certainly the least remarkable part of the Bible, and a very modest event as conquests go, the gradual claiming of an enclave in a territory that would be utterly negligible by the lights of real conquerors such as Alexander the Great or Augustus Caesar or even Ashurbanipal.  The suggestion that God was behind it maybe makes it worse than the campaigns of self-aggrandizement that destroyed many larger and greater cities, though it is not clear to me that it should.  A consequence which follows from God's role in the conquer of Canaan, asserted with terrible emphasis in Leviticus and elsewhere, is that God will deal with the Israelites exactly as he has dealt with the Canaanites, casting them out of the land in their turn if they cease to deserve it.  Abraham is told in a dream that possession of the promised land will be delayed an astonishing four hundred years until, in effect, the Amorites (that is, Canaanites) have lost their right to it.  We Anglo-European invaders do not know yet if we will have four hundred years in this land. 

Furthermore, as they approach Canaan, the Hebrews are told that they may not take any land of the Edomites or the Moabites because God has already given those people their land, having driven out former inhabitants. (Deuteronomy 2:4-11).  This is not the thinking of racial supremacists, or of people who believe they alone have God's attention.  Certainly it implies that God honors righteousness in those outside the Abrahamic covenant – otherwise the Canaanites could not have held the land while they did.  In any case, only ignorance can excuse the notion that European learned aggression and tribalism while pursuing the Bible.  The Peloponnesian Wars by themselves are a sufficient demonstration of that point. 

Assuming that my readers are, for the most part, nonindigenous as I am,  I would like to raise the question that seems to me as relevant to ourselves as to Moses.  The movements of populations, that great mysterious fact, that always full of disruption and grief and regret and are as inevitable and irreversible as the drift of continents.  Say that my ancestors fled poverty or affliction elsewhere, as the old Hebrews did, and caused poverty and dispossession here.  Granting that they were invaders, they might still have drawn conclusions from hard experience about how society could be made just, w which were generous and laudable conversion of bitterness into hope.   The most beautiful laws of Moses, when they are noticed at all, are as if shamed and discredited by the fact that he brought his tired and poor to settle in a land that was already populated  We have learned to think of our own most beautiful laws in the same way.  Are disruption and dispossession somehow redeemed by contempt for their best consequences?  Clearly, it was the inspiration of Moses to exploit what might be called the culturelessness of people who had lived for centuries as outsiders in tradition-bound Egypt, in order to make a new nation with a  distinctive religious culture which would express itself in a new social order.  In the narrative, his laws are formulated before the entry into Canaan, implying that the vision of the society preexisted the society itself – and, indeed was like a prophetic vision, always still to be realized.  If the purpose of the law is the righteousness of the individual, it purpose is also the goodness of individual and communal life.  If each member of the community obeys the commandments, then all members receive the assurance that they will not be murdered,  that their households will not be robbed or disrupted, that they will not be slandered, their children will not will not abuse or abandon them.   The relation of law to prophecy, of prohibition to liberation, is very clear. 

I have never, in the many decades I've read things about the Jewish Scriptures, ever read anything more carefully, scrupulously, fairly sympathetic to the character of the Scriptures and those who composed, assembled and maintained them than this paragraph in this essay.   For that characteristic practice alone, Marilynne Robinson's essays should be considered essential reading.   I can't think of another essayist of the past century and likely longer whose essays more deserve that status in whatever canon whatever remnant life those who aspire to a life of the mind establish.  If that sounds like an advertisement for the book, I can't do it justice.

The laws of Moses assume that the land is God's, that the Hebrews are strangers and sojourners there who cannot really own it but who enjoy it at God's pleasure (Leviticus 25:23).  The land is apportioned to the tribes, excepting the priestly Levites.  It can be sold (the assumption seems to be that this would be done under pressure of debt or poverty) but a kinsman has the right to buy it back, that is, redeem it, and restore it to its owner.  In any case, in every fiftieth year the lands are restored to the tribes and households to whom they were first given.   Every seventh year Hebrew slaves were freed, each taking with him or her enough of the master's good to “furnish him liberally” (Deuteronomy 15:14 all quotations are from the Revised Standard Version).  In thee years also all debts are to be forgiven.  Obviously these laws would have the effect of preventing accumulation of wealth and preventing as well the emergence of a caste of people who are permanently dispossessed.  Furthermore, in every seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath, to lie fallow,  “that the poor of your land may eat;  and what they leave the wild beasts may eat (Exodus 23:11).   Others are to live on what it produces without cultivation and on what has been set aside (Leviticus 25:1-7, 20-23).  At all times people are forbidden to reap the corners of their fields, to glean after they have reaped, to harvest their vineyard sand their olive trees thoroughly, to go back into the field for a sheaf they have forgotten:  “It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt;  therefore I command you to do this” (Deuteronomy 24:21-22). 

As Walter Brueggemann said in the book I've also been going through, the liberation of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, their status as freed slaves is the center around which all of their morality revolves, the means of understanding their experiences in history and, as Marilynne Robinson demonstrates in this essay, their radical economics and universal egalitarianism, including even the "Stranger" among them and even their enemies and rivals.   I agree with her that there isn't any other such national literature anywhere I've encountered.

These laws would preserve those who were poor from the kind of wretchedness More describes by giving them an assured subsistence.  While charity in Christendom was urged as a virtue – one that has always been unevenly aspired to – here the poor have their portion at the hand of God, and at the behest of law  If a commandment is something in the nature of a promise (“Ten Commandment” is an English imposition, in Hebrew they are called the Ten Words), then not only “you will not be stolen from but also “you will not steal” would be in some part fulfilled, first because the poor are given the right to take what would elsewhere have been someone else's property, and second because they are sheltered fro the extreme of desperation that drives the needy to theft.  The law of Moses so far values life above property that it forbids killing a thief who is breaking and entering by daylight (Exodus 22:2-3).  Judgment in criminal matters is based on the testimony of at least two witnesses, and not, as in premodern European civil law, on judicial torture and self-incrimination, which often led to the deaths of accused who insisted on their innocence.  In very may ways Moses would have lifted a terrible onus of manslaughter from the whole civilization.  The benefits to everyone involved in terms of dignity and peace would have been incalculable.  

And it is certainly to be noted that no conditions limit God's largesse toward the poor.  They need not be pious, or Jewish or worthy, or conspicuously in need, or intent on removing themselves from their condition of dependency.  The Bible never considers the poor otherwise than with tender respect, and this is fully as true when the speaker is “the Jewish God” as it is when the speaker is Jesus.  What laws could be more full of compassion than these?  

You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Exodus 23:9

Through this passage you can see that all of those whited sepulchres in the Republican Party are in violation of a commandment as set in Scripture as the famous Ten they also violate while claiming them as their own. 

You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you; he shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place which he shall choose within one of your towns, where it pleases him best; you shall not oppress him.  Deuteronomy 23:15-16

Anyone who asserts the Biblical character of the U. S. Constitution has to do so while ignoring that the text as given by the slave-holding "founders" and their allies in the Northern commercial class was a blatant violation of this commandment.

You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge Deuteronomy 24:17

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns;  you shall give him his hire on the day he hears it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it);  lest he cry against you to the Lord and it be sin in you.   Deuteronomy 25:14-15

If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open you hand to him, and led him sufficient for his need, what ever it may be .  . You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him;  because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and all that you undertake.   For the poor will never cease out of the land therefore I command you,  You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land.  Deuteronomy 15:7-8. 10-11

Then there is a Sabbath, the day in which one may not exploit and cannot be exploited, even by one's family or oneself   

Six days you shall labor and do all your work;  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the lord your God;  in it you shall not do any work,  you , or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant , or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates,m  that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.  You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt,  and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm;  therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.   Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Exhaustion was as endemic as malnutrition among the laboring classes of European cultures into the twentieth century.  Moses obliged manservant and maidservant, stranger and sojourner, ox and ass, to share in God's rest one day in seven.  This is profoundly humane, quite unexampled.  Some Christian writers on the Sabbath say this law was never applied to us, though historically many Christians have in fact sabbatized earnestly, one day late.   Jesus, in the manner of a Jewish prophet, criticized the way in which the Sabbath was observed in his time, clearly feeling it had become more demanding than restorative.  This is far from a rejection of the institution itself,  nor is it to be imagined that Jesus could have wished to deprive servants of their rest any more than widow and orphans and strangers of their sustenance.  Yet all this has been done in his name because he supposedly freed us from the burden of the law.  It seems to me fair to say that the loss of Moses was the defeat of Jesus, insofar as it was the hope of Jesus to bless and relieve the poor. 

These are the laws of a passionate God.  “Impassioned” is usually used by the Jewish Publication Society to translate the word other English translations render as “jealous.”  The Hebrew stem apparently means “to grow red.”  “Jealous” comes from the same Greek root as “zealous,” and the Greek worlds that derive from it are usually translated in the New Testament as “zeal” or “zealous”  IN the earliest English uses, for example in John Wycliffe's fourteenth-century translation of the Old Testament,  “jealous” often has that meaning, suggesting ardor and devotion.  In modern translations the Hebrew word is usually translated as “zeal” when the subject is a human being (as in 1 Kings 19:10) which must indicate an awareness of the wider meaning of the word.  But “jealousy” is virtually always imputed to God.  Jealousy has evolved into a very simple and unattractive emotion, in our understanding of it,  and God is much abused for the fact of his association with it.  Since translations are forever being laundered to remove complexity and loveliness, and since tradition is not a legitimate plea in these matters, one cannot help wondering how this particular archaism manages to survive untouched.  

hese are the claims of an almost supernaturally moral people who, in the midst of their hard scrabble life in a largely desert place, while under constant danger and attack, invasion, exile, at least one attempt by genocide under the earliest European's attempt to do so, maintained an incredibly elevated vision of God's morality and the moral and legal requirements that their experience of being oppressed placed on them when they were in a position to be oppressors.   I can't think of many other individual writers who maintained that practice, I can't think of any national group which did so as well.

I also can't think of anything that is more likely to establish egalitarian democracy in the United States or anywhere than this view of God and the moral consequences and laws that must emanate from that vision and which are determined by it. 

*  As Marilynne Robinson points out, Christians practiced an unfair and distorted reading of the Old Testament in the past, though I would say generally that was nowhere as bad as the secular practice that targets both of them.  Perhaps it is similar to how British and English speaking atheists adopted the Anglican line of anti-Catholic calumny with little modification to apply it to all of Christianity and Judaism as well.  Perhaps this is a different example of being ware of your harsh words because someday you may need to eat them.   Perhaps it's an example of what happens when Christians violate the Commandment against bearing false witness.

You Won't Win By Setting Aside The Presumption of Innocence And The Requirements Of Due Process

Note:  I'm coming to think that when issues of rights get involved with sex, especially sex of the kind that hook-up "culture" encourages that everyone goes stupid.   Or enough people to make it seem like everyone has.   The speed with which what started out as an obviously necessary effort to out men who had raped, assaulted, and harassed women has degenerated into a number of huge messes also leads me to think that unless everyone draw some distinctions very fast that the whole thing will turn into a complete hash.   I've tried writing this post several times and have come to the conclusion that there's no straight line through the problem because too many people are including too many, different, sometimes unrelated issues under one category.  You can't do that and expect anything but a mess.

As it has developed over the past two and a half months the wave of accusations of sexual harassment against men has grown and expanded and has come to cover a large number of accusations against men who are accused of everything from legally defined rape to being guilty of looking at women the wrong way.   And with the expansion of what has been included.  under the #MeToo umbrella includes everything from serious actual crimes -singly and committed against large numbers of women - to illegal harassment to understandably obnoxious behavior to, as I mentioned, women objecting to how a man looks at them - as was claimed against one of the psychology profs at Dartmouth.   And there is also a range of evidence and documentation supporting the accusations, from what looks like it should have gotten action by the police and prosecutors to the merest accusation and even just internet rumors based on supposition*.

Is this defined as a problem too big to achieve a satisfactory outcome?   After looking at the opposing manifestos of the groups represented by Catherine Deneuve and Caroline Haas (agreeing far more with Haas than Deneuve), the same in the United States, of Samantha Bee's piece on it last week, I think it's in danger of imploding due to that.  It is certainly being attacked on the basis of claims which can be characterized as extravagant or false.  Any false claims will be magnified to attack claims of even genuine crimes, they are probably the worst enemy of those who want to make progress against the assault and harassment of Women.

I don't know if this is going to become a feature of life online but I do know it's probably not sustainable, the excesses damaging the original or the most important intentions of those who started it and those who seriously want to stop as much of the actual abuse as possible.   As things such as the obviously political accusations against Al Franken came to be associated with it, I was certain that a backlash against it was inevitable and that stage of things has been reached.  Other than any innocent people whose lives will be damaged or their careers destroyed, the even greater tragedy of this is that the serious goals of #MeToo will be side tracked.   

One of the problems is that the desire to be all inclusive of the wrongs people claim has overshadowed the need to acknowledge that false accusations are bound to be part of any such manifestation, especially in the age of online gossip.   Any such false accusations demonstrated to be false or even just successfully refuted with the general public due to insufficient evidence will inevitably lead to the discrediting of real accusations of crimes and wrongs.   Which are real and which are false can't be known except through the presentation of evidence and its evaluation and, especially when it's sex,  I doubt that's possible in many cases. 

That is the use those already made are being put to by those who don't want things to change as a result of #MeToo.   And I doubt there is any way to keep them from using discredited accusations that way.  I know those made against Al Franken, when I saw what was presented as "evidence" and the history of Leann Tweeden with Republican ratfuckers were what first led me to think that the most basic rules of fairness to those accused had been set aside.  

You can assert that the women "must be believed" because of the role that not believing women played in allowing the conditions that allowed the rape and harassment to persist as it had but that's not sustainable.  No ones credibility should rest on their identity, if you claim that right for Women, I guarantee you that Men will claim the same right and they'll get it.   The solution is the presentation of evidence and its fair evaluation, not taking accusations or claims of innocence on faith.  

It's not just or right to judge any individual case on the basis of assumed trends in other cases because every case can only be judged on the basis of the evidence of guilt.  

I have been telling people that for more than five years in a case of accusations made and believed on the basis of no evidence against gay men.   If women aren't traditionally believed when they expose someone who has wronged them, the opposite was traditionally the case for gay men.  Gay men would be believed to be guilty of whatever they were accused of, even, in many cases when they were the victims of beatings or even murder in which the murderer or attacker said they did it because the gay man came onto them.  That even worked when the victim was straight, in some cases.    As I was able to point out, even then, 2011, there were papers being published in law journals against banning the "gay panic" defense even in murder cases because the lawyers advocating it be retained said jurors were going to believe it, anyway.  

The solution to both cases, at least in the case of actual crimes, is to demand that evidence produced be evaluated and considered, when that is possible.  When there is no evidence that meets legal requirements injustice may be unavoidable but foregoing that in assessing guilt is a guarantee that there is going to be injustice.   

When you mix sex into wrongdoing, especially when it is possible that the victim might have consented to what happened and there are no witnesses to that consent or refusal (as there generally are not) knowing who to believe can't be assumed to be knowable on the basis of gender or identity.   If you want a good illustration of that, consider the traditional assumption that no White Woman would give free consent to have sex with a Black Man and the consequences for Black Men accused of rape.  Then, it was automatically assumed that the Black Man was lying based on his identity.   And there didn't even have to be any sex involved or even an accusation made by a White Woman,  Mere suspicion was often enough to get a Black Man killed.   You can substitute the term Gay Man for Black Man and Straight Man for White Woman and you might get what I'm talking about. 

Consider that when due process broke down in these instances, it was members of the dominant power, straight, White Men, who were most likely to be the ultimate beneficiaries of that, it wasn't gay men.  It was LGBT People, it was Black People, and it is Women who are most likely to be the ultimate losers if due process, both in law and other levels of enforcement is not applied.   Insisting on due process is a protection for Women as it is for Men of any gender or racial or ethnic identity. 

I think a lot of this is the consequence of the reduction of formality in places of business, in schools.  I think it's likely that if there are monetary consequences for corporations and schools in this that it might lead to a wise reintroduction of policies against co-workers having romantic or sexual relationships.  IF THEY ARE REINSTATED THERE SHOULD BE A POLICY THAT WHEN THERE IS A VIOLATION THAT THE FIRST ONE FIRED WILL BE THE ONE IN A SUPERIOR POSITION IN THE CORPORATION.   That would be wise as well as just because it would probably make bosses think harder about coming on to and pressuring an employee to have sex.  

I also think it should lead to schools, especially colleges and universities, to enforce a ban on romantic and sexual relationships between teachers and staff with students.  Faculty should know they could lose their job if they come onto a student and evidence of that can be produced.  I'd go so far as to ban private meetings between them.  There should also be more effective bans against the consumption of alcohol and drugs which are certainly a big part of producing the problem.  What it can do to convince girls and boys that they really shouldn't get drunk or go with strangers in bars who pick them up I don't know, I do know that if we're going to consider people of college age to be adults then they don't get to claim some kind of right to do stupid stuff like getting sloshed or agreeing to go someplace they could be attacked and raped and that the responsibility for them doing so falls on the college or university.   

Again,  people don't have a right to be stupid, that is being stupid, voluntarily through getting drunk or letting their libido do their thinking for them.  People who are unintelligent through no choice of their own need protection of a kind that college students would reject as infantilizing them even as they choose to diminish their own capacities.   What they're doing by doing those things, especially in places like pick-up bars is volunteering to be victimized by people who want to take advantage of the, either by their consent while being voluntarily stupid-drunk or by force if they don't give consent.  If they were robbed or beaten up intead of raped, I don't think they'd fail to see the point.   

If they gave their consent, even stupid-drunk then they are guilty of making a fool of themselves, if they didn't give consent they are the victims of a crime, unfortunately, due to their going into danger voluntarily the crime will probably be impossible to prove.   Of course you'll be able to think of all kinds of cases and accusations that don't fit those closely but the problem is that they will be refuted by people who claim they do and there is seldom anyone who can produce evidence to refute them.  If the guy who they claim raped them was stupid-drunk, as he might well have been, it doesn't help.  

I am beginning to think the drinking age should be 45, though there are plenty of people I'm reading online that makes me think that's too low. 

Keeping yourself safe is going to do you a lot more good than insisting that the police or prosecutors or the college or university get you justice, which will often be impossible due to putting yourself in a condition to be victimized, especially when there is no one to witness whether or not you gave consent.   If the only thing to judge by is your going back to some guy's place, voluntarily, it doesn't matter how wrong it seems to include that in deciding who a jury believes because it's going to happen anyway.  Your best buddy online won't tell you that but I just did.  And I say it to any man, especially any gay man as much as I would a woman or girl.  In fact, I've said it to gay men for years.  And I will say to any man who wants to get a woman or girl or man or boy back to his place so he can have sex with them, you're putting yourself into a situation to have accusations made against you.   I don't have any sympathy for men who do stupid stuff and get accused of assault or rape falsely.  I'll save my sympathy for people who didn't put themselves in harms way knowingly or through choosing to be drunk in a pick-up bar or frat party.

I am also coming to think that unless these problems are considered in smaller, sorted categories improving things won't be possible because #MeToo has come to mean too many different things to be effectively sustained.

*   I will not go into the case of Aziz Ansari and the accusations at the site "Babe" because I'm not familiar with him or the site or the accusation except to say maybe that's unavoidable when people pick up strangers for sex and that it's incredibly stupid to encourage people to do it.  I'd say any website that encourages women to hook up with strangers is encouraging a percentage of them to put themselves in a situation that could lead them their being raped or maybe murdered.  As far as I've read about it, "Babe" is a site run by a bunch of irresponsible jerks who, like so many jerks online, are mostly interested in generating traffic for their site through being irresponsible jerks.  And I'll say that anyone who slams second-wave feminism on the basis I've been reading from such people is too stupid and irresponsible to produce anything good.   Why not slam the suffrage movement and really make asses of yourselves.

I will advise Ansari and other men who participate in hooking up,  you are setting yourself up for those kinds of accusations, that's not going to stop so maybe you should consider what happened here as an indication that it's not the best idea you've ever had.  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Atanas Ourkouzounov - 11 Preludes-Etudes

Atanas Ourkouzounov, guitar

I posted some of these before, someone posted them with the music.   I don't know why but I hear so much more in the music when I can see the notes.    But even without it I love these

Hate Mail - When Did It Become Unacceptable To Not Comment On The Basis Of Not Knowing?

I, like you, know absolutely nothing about the facts of the case in Chile but unlike you I'm not going to assume I know anything about it while claiming I do.    Knowing nothing about it, I can be certain I don't know as much about it as Pope Francis does, but I'm not even speculating that he's got it right even as you, knowing nothing about it, presume he's got it wrong.   

Until I know something about it, I've got nothing to say on it. 

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Claudine Toutoungi - The Inheritors

Francois Chédid is the falafel king. Who knew there was so much money in Lebanese food? Or that his three delightful grown-up children would be sent into such a spin when he tries to share his good fortune? Comic drama by Claudine Toutoungi.

Jasmine ..... Montserrat Lombard
Francois ..... Kulvinder Ghir
Nadia ..... Katie Lyons
Frank ..... Samuel James
Diane ..... Sanchia McCormack

Directed by Toby Swift

"Why do we not know this yet?" On the Day When Republicans Shut Down The Government Using Sick Children And The Stranger Among Us To Shaft The Poor Even More

One of the characteristics of our modern so-called intellectuals is that there are large numbers of them who peddle themselves as a sort of budget rent-a-scholars, who every so often write a magazine article or a book of scant intellectual gravitas which they peddle around on the higher-mid-brow talk show circuit.  Or at least that was how it was done until fairly recently.  I get the feeling that even that level of intellectual life in the English Speaking People is giving way to the tendencies within it to celebrity culture and fandom.  The "Bright" lights of the new atheism could be a quintessential example .   But there are certainly those whose stock and trade is religion who do that, though since about the 1990s, not so often in the liberal denominations.  One of the earlier ones was the once ubiquitous Episcopal bishop,  John Spong who would every few years write a book and in between would be asked on to debunk the religious tradition that, somehow, took him to be bishop material when it was clear he really didn't believe much of the central faith holdings of Episcopal Christianity.  If you want a good take down of Spong's road show you could do no better than to read the first section of Marilynne Robinson's essay,  The Fate of Ideas: Moses, in which she dismembers Spong's nasty and mean spirited and surprisingly, for a bishop scandalously uniformed, presentation of the Old Testament and, in particular the Mosaic Law.   There is a familiar conservative critique of Spong's act, this is the far less familiar traditional American liberal critique of it.

I say that because while I'm tempted to post what she said about Spong and that genre of writing,  I'm only going to recommend you look for it in the collection,  When I Was A Child I Read Books, because I want to post something that gets right to the heart of the matter and which has the power to expose a lot of the religious fraud from those who thump on the Bible without, as well, seeming to know much about what it says.   As Brueggemann said last year, we need to take back and rescue the Ten Commandments (which Spong insists are in need of junking) because they are what we need to save justice under an egalitarian democracy.   Risking a cease and desist, I'm going to give you a big chunk of the essay because I can't do better at making the argument than Ms. Robinson does.  And it is so important.  Remember that a lot of our law and legal tradition and culture comes directly from the English common law that is in almost every instance far more brutal than the much maligned Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, and where it was harsh English law tended to be as harsh if not harsher.

After centuries of neglect and suppression the Old Testament became a much studied and lovingly translated text at the time of the Reformation.  Its beauty rewarded the attention of Christian humanists and was the occasion for the definitive emergence of modern languages such as English and German as literary languages.  The religious significance ascribed to it and the method by which it was interpreted varied with the theological setting in which it found itself.  Yet never was it justly dealt with or properly valued by any major Christian tradition, nor is it now. 

In his Utopia,  Thomas More, the sixteenth-century statesman and scholar, notes one great difference between the regime of Christian England and the laws laid down by Moses.  English thieves were hanged in great numbers, sometimes twenty on a scaffold, whereas “to be short, Moses; law, though it were ungentle and sharp, as a law that was given to bondmen, yea, and them very obstinate, stubborn and stiff-necked, yet it punished theft by the purse, and not with death [emphasis mine].   And let us not thin that God in the new law of clemency and mercy, under the which He ruleth us with fatherly gentleness, as his dear children, hath given us greater scope and license to the execution of cruelty upon one another.”  More wrote his book in Latin, and the learned could not be hanged (if they were male) – that is the actual meaning of “benefit of clergy” - so those to whom his thoughts would have been of pressing interest would not have been among his readers.  But a very valuable point is made here, which is seldom made, and which, if we were honest, would force us to consider many things. 

Moses (by whom I mean the ethos and spirit of Mosaic law, however it came to be articulated) in fact does not authorize any physical punishment for crimes against property.  The entire economic and social history of Christendom would have been transformed if Moses had been harkened to only in this one particular.  Feudalism, not to mention early capitalism, is hardly to be imagined where such restraint was observed in the defense of the rights of ownership.  Anyone familiar with European history is aware of the zeal for brutal punishment the terrible ingenuity with which the human  body was tormented and insulted through the eighteenth century at least, very often to deter theft on the part of the wretched.  Moses authorizes nothing of the kind, nor indeed does he countenance any oppression of the poor.  More is entirely conventional, as he would be still, in describing the law of Moses as “sharp” beside the merciful governance of Christ.  But how could Europe have been more effectively Christianized – understand the sense in which I use the word – than by adherence to these laws of Moses?  Granting the severity of the holiness codes in the Torah, they do not compare unfavorably with laws touching religious matters in More's England.  More himself called for the burning of William Tyndale, the great early translator of the Bible into English, who was in fact burned.  It is often said that Europeans learned religious intolerance from the Old Testament.  Then how did we happen to skp over the parts where the laws protect and provide for the poor, and where oppression of them is most fiercely forbidden?   It is surely dishonest to suggest we learned anything at all from the Torah, if we have not earned anything good from it.  Better to say our vices are our own than to try to exculpate ourselves by implying that our attention strayed during the humane and visionary passages.  The law of Moses puts liberation theology to shame in its passionate loyalty to the poor.  Why do we not know this yet? 

Utopia describes the consequences of the nightmarish policy of clearance and enclosure, persisted in for centuries, which drove the rural poor out of the English countryside. 

"For look in what parts of the realm doeth grow the finest and therefore dearest wool, there noblemen and gentlemen, yea and certain abbots, holy men no doubt . . . much annoying the public weal, leave no room for tillage.  They enclose all into pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down towns, and leave nothing standing but a church to be made a sheep-house . . . [The poor] must needs depart away, poor, silly, retched souls, men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woeful mothers with their young babes . . . Away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses.  finding no place to rest in . . . [ When they have sold whatever they have] what can they do but steal, and then justly be hanged, or else go about a-begging?  And yet then also they be cast into prison as vagabonds, because hey go out and work not,  whom no man will set a-work, though they never so willingly proffer themselves thereto."

As I will demonstrate from the text, all this violates the laws of Moses, in letter and in spirit  How it is to be reconciled with any conceivable intention of Jesus I cannot imagine, but that is not the issue here.  In fact, the laws of Moses establish a highly coherent system for minimizing and alleviating poverty, a brilliant economics based in a religious ethic marked by nothing more strongly than by an anxious solicitude for the well-being of the needy and the vulnerable.  

I will go on with this essay because she does, in fact, demonstrate that, far from the characterization of The Law and the "Jewish God" that is current among the college educated English Speaking Peoples, if the economic provisions in it, alone, were adopted as our law it would be a more radical redistribution of wealth and power than has ever happened after any Communist revolution, such as we're still supposed to be hankering over, though their equivalent of the "holiness code" made the severity of the one in Leviticus look like a slap on the wrist.

As she asks, "Why do we not know this yet?"  It's not as if the book isn't there to be read, though I doubt more than one in a hundred of its casual online slammers has ever really read it, depending on the clippings of such mid-brow ersatz intellectuals or, more likely, what they heard on Fresh Air or some TV talk show.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Swab Four

Image result for smart mop head

This is what came up when I googled "Smart Mop Head" 

Mauro Giuliani- Two Rondos For Guitar And Fortepiano op 68

Enrica Savigni, chitarra "Pasquale Vinaccia", Napoli 1828
Laura Savigni, fortepiano "Clementi & CO.", Londra around 1820


They are so good.   The romantic era guitar and the fortepiano are just about perfect together.

One Thing In Our Politics Which Has Achieved A De Facto Level of Scientific Certainty

Chris Hayes' segment from last night with Julia Ioffe discussing the relationship of Russian oligarchs with covert ties to the Putin crime regime and the National Rifle Association and the possible illegal funneling of Putin mafia cash through American organizations to put Trump in office should have made your jaw drop.   It's a sign of just how common this kind of corruption has gotten in the United States that my jaw didn't drop when I heard it.   But that was largely because I was following what the Supreme Court and the "civil liberties" industry has done to American democracy through a line of rulings, one of the last and most damaging of which was the Citizens United case which Ioffe mentions as contributing to hidden money from even foreign organized crime regimes being funneled into our political system through "free speech-free press" orthodoxy. 

I don't know how much more explicit it can get, the ACLU joining with overt fascists in advocating an interpretation of the First Amendment which their opponents warned would lead to exactly this kind of thing yielding the results their opponents predicted would mean that the case that Citizens United and the theory of the First Amendment which is the doctrine and dogma of all right-thinking lefties and everything right down to our explicit domestic terrorist-Nazis is proven by a test given it in real reality instead of lawyerly theorizing and blather about precedents  in previous terrible decisions in that line of decisions.   I have no doubt that the next case like this the ACLU will brief in favor of the same line which has produced this disaster. 

If the NRA did, in fact, take Putin crime money - or any money from any foreign oligarchs - to influence the American election OR IF ANY OTHER UNITED STATES ENTITY DID that means that the ACLU-"civil liberties" industry line on that is incompatible with the only reason for the First Amendment to exist, to protect egalitarian democracy, the right to a government elected on the basis of informed consent of the governed by elected representatives who will protect and defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic.   

I am quite confident that the NRA isn't the only entity which had such Putin-Russian oligarch or other oligarch money given to it to help influence the election.  With the articles I read in them I strongly suspect some of that money was going to either some of the media organs of the alleged left and if not them directly, to fund the writings of their contributors.   I suspect that an investigation of the Green Party, of the sort which was reported to be one of the areas the Mueller investigation had taken up might be on to something there, too.  And if you can say that about the covert Republican-spoiler "left" it's even more likely to be true of the pro-Republican right. 

The fact is that the ACLU and the "civil liberties" industry has been as much a tool of billionaire oligarchs foreign and domestic as we may find the NRA has been.   They certainly made it more likely that the Putin crime regime and their allies would succeed in using, as Ioffe pointed out, things invented in the United States for their own purposes.  It would certainly not have been a secret to them that Citizens United was a gift to them, given by the Republican majority on the Supreme Court with the help of the "civil liberties" industry because the American free press, not to mention opposing briefs filed with the Court pointed out what they were doing.   I'd go so far as to say that the members of the court who voted for Citizens United were guilty of treason, certainly of violating their oath of office in doing so.   They and the lawyers and groups who briefed them in favor of Citizens United can't claim ignorance because they were warned that this would result from what they did.   

These are days when you have to make such strong statements because our country has not been in this kind of self-made crisis before,  I don't think the Confederacy was as serious a challenge to American democracy because that treason was geographically isolated, that of today is made general by such things as Supreme Court rulings.   I don't know any other way to say it than this because I've paid attention to this for a long time now and I remember the warnings that have been given and ignored because "The First Amendment" .  Well, now it's obvious that's led to the same thing that is the desired result of those constantly yelling "The Second Amendment".   Fascism. 

Perhaps it is the coming of this kind of death which we are experiencing in America today because we have not regraded life as a task which the national community must address.

Walter Brueggemann wrote that sentence I took as a title forty years ago.  What he based it in was written more than 2500 years ago.   If I hadn't chosen that sentence from the part of his book, The Bible Makes Sense I started to go through this week, I'd have chosen the end of this one which is so resonant with Trumpian-Republican rule:

The kings of Israel, prototypes of those who forgot the task of life,  turn out to be the agents of death, i.e., the cause of the unrelatedness that leads to disintegration. 

Think about that during the coverage of the shut-down vote, especially as it relates to insuring sick children and those who were covered by DACA.   Not to mention the Republican billionaire bonanza they passed last month.

Life Is A Task

The Bible regards life/death as a two-sided issue.  And the two sides must be kept in careful tension with each other.  On the one hand, life is a task.  It is a work which is assigned to a community and which the community must intentionally undertake.   If the community quits on the task,  the community disintegrates and there will be death.  Perhaps it is the coming of this kind of death which we are experiencing in America today because we have not regraded life as a task which the national community must address.  The prophets of Israel in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. were most articulate about such a situation.  The Israelites in that period were secure and complacent and took everything for granted.  Not unlike ourselves, they presumed upon the pride and affluence they saw everywhere.  They concluded that it would never end and was eternally guaranteed.  It is the prophets who announce to the community of meaning and destiny that life never just happens.  It requires sustained, disciplined effort to enhance and continually reform the community.  The kings of Israel, prototypes of those who forgot the task of life,  turn out to be the agents of death, i.e., the cause of the unrelatedness that leads to disintegration. 

The prophet Amos issued such a call to life as a task:

Seek me and live . . . 
Seek the LORD and live . . . 
Seek good, and not evil . . . 
Hate evil, and love good . . . 
establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:4-15).

The task of securing life means to turn away from all other loyalties except to the LORD, the God of the Bible.  It requires sharing his vision and rejecting every other vision of what community can be.  Concretely it means to seek “good” which is the well-being for all members of the community, and to establish justice; that is, to care for the weak and powerless, to give sustenance to the helpless.  It means to orient and reorganize public institutions so that the weak and powerless are not excluded as unqualified.  These are the tasks of life in ancient Israel and in every community.  Isaiah echoes the task in a series of imperatives:

Wash yourselves;
make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil, 
learn to do good;
seek justice, 
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless, 
plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:16-17).

When these tasks are not embraced, death surely comes (cf. Amos 5:1-2).

I will have more to say on this but in the meantime I will call your attention to this essay from the Canadian blog "azlewis," Martin Luther King Jr., the Prophet Amos, and the Vietnam War.

It's so well said that I'll just repost this excerpt:

Though both King and Amos have international concerns, their main focus is domestic poverty and issues that distract from its alleviation. Amos rails against the cult in its collusion with the state and other powerful people. Those who are wealthy enough to own two houses (3:15) seem to care nothing for justice in the streets. (4:1; 5:12) In his book of woes in chapter 6, he describes in detail extreme wealth and how God will send the wealthy into exile first. Complicit in the affluent of Israel are the religious leaders who are so corrupt that they will not hear the words of God when they do come through Amos. (7:13) The cult is obviously meaningless to the people since they wait for the ceremonies to cease in order to do more business and exploit the poor to their own gain. Amos quotes God as saying that God hates the religious festivals and will not even accept their offerings. The cult ceases its usefulness and that is the impetus for one of the biblical phrases King quotes the most in his career and the line that King uses to conclude his speech: “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:23-24)

Though the ostensible subject of King’s speech is the injustice of the War in Vietnam, note that the title is “Beyond Vietnam.” The war, he claims, is merely a symptom of a larger problem and when he lists his reasons for “bringing Vietnam into the field of [his] moral vision,” his first is that the funds going toward the war distract from the programs that went towards the “rehabilitation of [America’s] poor.” Meanwhile the government sent the children of the poor to fight and die in the war itself.

Geesh, do I wish I hadn't wasted so much time reading the sterile, pointless, fruitless secular left most of my life.  I regret that time wasted almost as much as I do watching TV.

Hate Mail - "Natural selection operates by random chance, there is no directionality involved"

The claim that Darwinism doesn't make claims about teleological ends in evolution is often made but it is generally contradicted by other claims of the materialist-Darwinist, at times in the same document or speech or conversation.   The claim that natural selection, or, I would guess, any conception of evolution that involves a framing that sees the overriding fact of evolution in terms of qualitative inequality would have to involve, at the most basic and unavoidable levels of meaning, that some claim of teleology in the proposed mechanism even as a whole host of linguistic and (ultimately doomed) logical contortions are gone through as those are pointed out. 

I haven't made an in-depth study of the various editions Darwin published of On the Origin of Species to point out the competing claims of chance, non-directionality, and on the other hand, "progress" and other teleological claims.  I have pointed out that he explicitly tied Natural Selection to Survival of the Fittest in the 5th and 6th editions, the final ones before his death, at the behest of his co-inventor of NS, A. R. Wallace.   Oddly, and illogically, Wallace didn't like the term because he said it implied some kind of conscious choice, even as tying it to "fitness" would have inevitably reinforced that concept.   I think claiming that natural selection operates to enhance "fitness" makes that inevitable  but I have heard one Darwinist point out that Darwin often talks about "progress" as the product of natural selection, progressive fitness even as he far less often talks about "evolution".  I can give you this example in the last paragraph in the recapitulation and summary of his claims in the first edition, especially the sentence in blue:

We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretel that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.

If, as you claim, I've misrepresented what "science" says about teleological ends in evolution, you're going to have to take it up with ol' Chuck as he said it about ninety years before I was born.

Considering natural selection is all about organisms dying and being destroyed, as I believe as orthodox a Darwinist as Karl Pearson called it something like "progressive death rate" or some such construction, Darwin's claim that it "works solely by and for the good of each being" is an incredibly stupid claim.   The idea that such a non-conscious entity could work "for the good of each being" even as it killed them off with a mercilessness that the amoral, immoral Parson Malthus would have admired, is so bizarre that I'm surprised I've never come across someone pointing out its self-serving double-speak.   I think that even if they came to a less illogical articulation of "natural selection" it would still inevitably be saturated with the intent of Malthus, Darwin, Pearson, etc. because that was its origin, that is embedded in the concept as deeply as the concept of species.  It differs from the laws of physics because those are based on what can be observed and measured, the study of evolution can't have the same kind of basis and it is inevitable that any claims made about evolution will include a far wider range of the thinking and feelings of those who are making the claims.   If it is science, it is science in an entirely different way that that being done by people like Faraday and Rutherford.

For more overt atheist-materialist advocates of scientism to further their atheist ideology to claim natural selection could be compatible with operations of random chance was always a stretch.  Natural selection was invented by an upper-class Brit who was massively conceited about the qualitative superiority of his family line - in that characteristically Brit way in order to make claims of a teleological process that would render his family and his line superior to the British poor and other ethnic groups, the Irish, the Fuegian, the Tasmanian, etc.  The only reason I believe it was retained was because it allowed conceited scientists to believe they had cracked the puzzle of evolution, in a way that physicists had really cracked some far less ambitious riddles about the physical world, when they hadn't and because it told the rich, White, male elite that nature had rewarded them with the crown of earthly wealth and power due to their biological superiority.   I think today it is retained mostly due to the vestiges of its usefulness to atheists in their ideological campaigns though there is certainly a lot of its citation among conceited scientists such as Francis Crick, Jame Watson, and R. A. Fischer (not an atheist, by the way) because they like the idea that their intelligence is a product of their biological superiority and not the chances they had in life unrelated to biology.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Joshua Redman - Jazz Crimes

Joshua Redman (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone);
Sam Yahel (piano, Wurlitzer piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Clavinet, keyboards);
Brian Blade (drums);
Bashiri Johnson (bongos, congas, shaker, tambourine).

My brother made me a convert, so many facets to Redman's music. 


Tumpisher Beobachter

I am asked what I think of the New York Times editorial page being devoted, entirely, to the approximately 34% of Americans who support Donald Trump and the first thing I note is that 34% is about 2.8% less of the electorate who supported Hitler in 1932.  And the second thing I will point out is that if the Trump regime declared martial law, suspended the Constitution and started rounding up and murdering its opponents the New York Times would probably do the same thing, again. 

The New York Times is a tool of the billionaire oligarchs just as it was the tool of the multi-millionaire oligarchs before now.  It was the rag that started the descent into Trumpian fascism when it got itself the permission to lie with impunity.  That is what it really is, that really has had a devastating effect on American democracy, it is one of the most effective tools of billionaire oligarchy. 

Illustration Of The Exception